Expert Input: PIJAC’s Subcommittees Tap Member Expertise
By: Mike Bober, Executive Vice President
Oftentimes when delivering testimony, PIJAC staff point out that those of us in the pet field don’t just care ABOUT animals, we care FOR animals. That firsthand knowledge makes our members some of the best sources available for information on best practices and standard operating procedures as well as the likely impact of proposed legislation and regulations on our trade. And it’s the reason that the PIJAC Legislative Committee and staff look to committees made up of PIJAC members and other experts to provide insight and feedback before we weigh in with testimony, sit down with legislators or take legal action.
In some cases, these committees are organized around a specific pet sector. The best and most established example of this is our Aquatics Committtee. Made up of PIJAC members who collect, breed, and sell species and products to the ornamental aquarium community – both fresh and saltwater – as well as hobbyists and other supporters, they monitor and address regulations and laws that affect the trade. The experience and knowledge of the individuals who make up the committee gives them the best understanding of the impact of aquatics proposals at the federal level, such as various proposals to list additional marine species under the Endangered Species Act, all the way to the local level, as in Hawaii when facing efforts to impose unrealistic, prohibitive transportation standards.
Another example is our Herp Committee, reactivated over the past year as a result of conversations that took place at last year’s Top2Top conference. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of PIJAC members in the reptile trade, we have been able to review and respond to numerous efforts to classify species common to the trade as “dangerous wild animals” with scientific data and clear arguments for reasonable standards instead of blanket prohibitions. We have also addressed federal efforts to restrict trade in additional species under the Lacey Act. They are currently in the process of finalizing recommendations on several sets of best practices that will be helpful to breeders, retailers and hobbyists.
Then there is our Zoonoses Committee, whose members work as liaisons between the responsible pet trade, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes for Health and others to help keep the public informed about diseases that can be communicated between pets and people. They recently completed a revision of our “Healthy Herp Handling” poster which can be used in classrooms and at home, and they have approved a number of care sheets regarding disease prevention in pet stores. The Zoonoses Committee also produces health alerts in the rare cases when outbreaks of zoonotic diseases do occur.
In all three cases, PIJAC staff and Board Members rely on the input and expertise of committee members to guide our actions and to ensure that PIJAC remains a trusted authority among regulators, legislators and the general public. In the near future, we expect to launch several additional committees addressing issues facing the avian community and others. If you are interested in serving as a member of one or more of these committees, please contact Mike Bober for additional information.